Sunday, July 14: This morning, I wake up before sunrise to get showered and ready to go to Torrox to catch the 7:20 a.m. ALSA bus to Seville. Poor Marianne and Michael, who have been the perfect hosts, also have to get up early, as they are driving me to the bus stop.
The bus stop is not in a terminal, but just a covered stop along the route. I feel bad about them having to get up so early to drive me nearly a half hour to the bus stop, so I encourage them to just drop me and head back home. They are too kind to leave me, and they insist on standing with me until I’m situated on the bus. It’s so funny how I’ve just let myself fall into their hands during my stay here. I’m used to traveling alone, and I normally function perfectly well when I have to, but when someone steps in and offers to take care of me, I can easily allow them to do that. It has been lovely for me to be in someone’s capable and caring hands for a few days. What a welcome respite from some of the logistical worries encountered in traveling. 🙂
The bus arrives right on time; we put my bag into the hold, give hugs all around and then I’m off. The bus is filled with teenagers all dressed up as if they’ve been out all night at a party. They’re quite boisterous at this hour of the morning. The first half of the bus trip involves lots of joking, laughter and general loudness until they start getting off the bus in twos and threes at various stops along the way. Finally, after we pass through Malaga and a few other larger towns, we’re on the highway to Seville.
I arrive in Seville at 11:45 and have to wait nearly two hours in the bus terminal for the 1:30 p.m. departure of the EVA Transportes bus to the Algarve, which is to arrive in Tavira at 2:50. Taking into account the one hour time difference between Spain and Portugal, the bus ride should be about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
On the bus ride, I listen, as I’ve taken to doing on this trip, to Brett Dennen’s “Lover Boy” on my iPod Nano. I come across a song, “I Want to Feel Free,” and the lyrics speak to where I am right now.
I want to feel free like I did when I was younger
When I was younger I was brave
Now I’m lost in another language
Some words I know but I’m mostly confused…
And I got home to Santa Monica
Below a blanket of clouds
My pockets filled with pretty Spanish coins
They have no value to me now.
I alternatively enjoy the scenery out the window and drift off to sleep.
I am meeting up with another blogger, Jo of restlessjo ~ Roaming, at home and abroad, who is British but has a vacation home in Tavira. It just so happens she is on vacation during my time here in Spain and Portugal, and she has kindly invited me to stay with her for two nights. I am touched by her offer, as she and her husband Mick only have a short time on their vacation, and they have invited me to be an interloper during their precious holiday time! I know Jo loses a couple of nights’ sleep worrying over having a stranger in her house before I arrive; I feel so bad about that!
I’m surprised when the bus pulls off the exit ramp at about 2:10 and I see the sign for Tavira! I’ve told Jo I’ll arrive at 2:50, so it will be a bit of a wait in the bus terminal. When I arrive, there is no sign of Jo, as I wouldn’t expect there to be at this early time. I don’t have any money left on my phone to text her, and there is no one manning the bus station whose phone I can use. It’s obviously siesta time. So I just wander around waiting and watching for Jo.
While waiting, I get my first glimpse of the Ponte Romana. This seven-arched bridge probably predates the Romans, but it was so named because it linked the Roman road from Castro Marim to Tavira. According to Lonely Planet Portugal, the current structure dates from a 17th-century reconstruction. The bridge was also touched up in 1989, after floods knocked down one of its pillars. The bridge spans the Gilão River.
I finally see Jo, who I easily recognize from her blog, wandering down the street toward the bus terminal. She’s tall and thin, with beautiful skin and a lovely smile, and her manner is really adorable. She has an incredible warmth about her. She introduces me to her husband Mick and he kindly welcomes me. I feel really bad for him having to put up with this stranger for a couple of nights. At least Jo and I have read each other’s blogs and know something about each other, but poor Mick doesn’t have a clue who I am!
Jo describes herself as thus on her blog: Hi! I’m Jo! Johanna when I’m feeling posh, Jan to my Dad, and Joasiu to my Polish family. A bit of a mix-up, I guess. The one definite, however, is my restless nature. I can’t be still for too long, unless of course it’s sunny and I’ve got a good book. I love to travel and to explore our world. It doesn’t have to be the big wide world- I can be ridiculously happy not too far from home, so long as I’m out there, just embracing life. To read more about Jo, see Restless Jo: About. She’s definitely an energetic and restless lady who embraces life with gusto; I pick that up about her quickly. I can certainly identify with that restless nature as I have it myself. 🙂
We put my bags in the trunk of the car and then stroll through the town, stopping along the way at Cafe Anazu to have some chilled white wine (Jo and I) and beer (Mick). Jo and Mick harken from Hartlepool in northeast England, where Jo says it rains too incessantly for her taste. They love coming to the Algarve about four times each year to escape the dreary weather and to explore the Algarve’s sunny and warm beaches. Mick works as a landscape architect at his home and Jo is retired.
Then we go to Jo’s house, where she helps me settle in to her lovely guest room. Then Jo and I escape to her rooftop, where she has a swinging rope hammock-seat; we share glasses of wine and chat for a long time. She’s easy-going and companionable; we comfortably open up to each other and share all kinds of stories about our histories, our current lives, our children and our struggles.
I take a little rest, and then we take a long walk into the charming Old Town. The buildings are a little more scruffy than Spain’s pristine whitewashed buildings, but that only adds to their charm. Many of the buildings have ceramic-tiled facades, which are lovely.
The Moorish occupation of Tavira between the 8th and 13th centuries left its mark on the agriculture, architecture and culture of the area. That influence can still be seen in Tavira today with its whitewashed buildings, Moorish-style doors and rooftops. A castle, two mosques and palaces were built by the Moors. During this time, Tavira established itself as an important port for sailors and fishermen.
In 1242, the Christians took Tavira back from the Moors in a bloody conflict. The population of the town was decimated during this battle. Though most Muslims left the town, some remained in a Moorish quarter.
In the 17th century, the port on its river was of considerable importance, shipping produce such as salt, dried fish and wine. Like most of the Algarve, its buildings were virtually destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. This earthquake is thought to have reached a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale and caused extensive damage throughout the Algarve due to shock waves and tsunamis. The earthquake is referred to as the Lisbon Earthquake due to its terrible effects on the capital city, although the epicentre was some 200 km west-southwest of Cape St. Vincent in the Algarve (Wikipedia: Tavira Municipality).
This solemn church was constructed to promote the Carmelite ideal of attaining Christian perfection, fostering the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, with special devotion and prayer to the Virgin of Carmen. Started in 1747, the church is one of the most sumptuous in the Algarve and took 43 years to complete. The church is renowned for its exceptional acoustics and is often the venue of classical concerts held here throughout the year. (Tavira-Today.com: Tavira Churches)
Many Portuguese houses and buildings have facades of pretty ceramic tiles. I love these!
We head for dinner at Restaurante Bica, where we share a carafe of red wine, hearty bread, cheese and olives; I order Salmão Grelhado, or Grilled Salmon. This is a small and bustling Portuguese family run business with delicious food. It’s a lovely place but since it’s so loud, I have a little trouble hearing Jo and Mick in order to have a proper conversation.
It’s funny, Jo and Mick are British, so of course they have British accents. I have a little trouble understanding Mick’s soft-spoken accent in particular. It’s the same on their side as well; Jo mentions that the first time I called her, she was baffled by my American accent and thought: Who is this lady!?? It’s funny the assumptions we make about people when we read their writing in a blog as opposed to hearing them speak. I was equally surprised by Marianne’s and by Jo’s British accents!
After dinner, we take a long walk through the town, where we see the lights of Tavira reflected in the Gilão River.
We stroll through an outdoor market with booths selling all kinds of crafts and clothing. Mick takes a picture of Jo and me, which isn’t too great in the poor lighting.
Jo comments, as Marianne did in Spain, that she loves seeing entire Portuguese families out strolling, dining and laughing into the late hours of the night.
In one little square, we come across a crowd gathered around something or someone emanating a loud peeping sound. When we finally push our way to a vantage point, we see a grown woman dressed like a baby in a baby stroller, making loud peeping sounds like an angry bird. I’m totally baffled as to how these street performers think of these things. Later, as we walk across the Ponte Romana, we come across this trio of colorful be-wigged and polka-dot faced ladies in a box, making similar peeping noises. Wow! There are certainly some creative street performers in these parts!
We walk back through the streets toward Jo’s house, where we plan to make a stop for a glass of Port. However, the place where Jo and Mick usually go is closed tonight; once we discover this, we’ve left the center of town where we might find other options, so we give up and go home. Jo promises that tomorrow night we will have a glass of Port. She also gets my mouth watering over mention of a delicious fig and almond gelato, which we must sample tomorrow.
I’m exhausted by this time from my early start, my day of travel and all the walking, so I collapse in bed, dreaming of Port and fig and almond gelato, a literal feast of sweet dreams. 🙂